The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, abruptly ended her weekly media conference today after labelling a reporter’s question “a waste of time”.
Ms Pelosi faced questions on a range of subjects, from the impeachment trial of Donald Trump to the House’s looming vote to remove Republicans Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments.
About 20 minutes in, she lost patience.
“As far as the impeachment trial is concerned, Senator (Lindsey) Graham said that if the Democrats call any witness, that the Republicans will be prepared to call in the FBI and ‘tell us about people who planned this attack’ and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol. What’s your response to that?” a reporter asked.
“Your question is a waste of time,” Ms Pelosi said, immediately moving on to someone else.
She didn’t much like the following question either.
“Are you worried at all about the precedent it would set in removing-” the next reporter started to ask, referring to today’s vote on Ms Greene. Ms Pelosi cut him off.
“No. Not at all. Not at all,” she said.
“If any of our members threatened the safety of other members, we’d be the first to take them off of committee.”
“That’s it,” Ms Pelosi added, abruptly ending the event.
Earlier in the media conference, Ms Pelosi went after the Republican Party for its handling of Ms Greene, who has spread all manner of wild conspiracy theories and expressed support for executing prominent Democrats.
In the coming hours, the House will hold a vote on whether to strip Ms Greene of her positions on the Education and Labour Committee and the Budget Committee.
“I remain profoundly concerned about House Republican leaders’ acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists,” Ms Pelosi said.
“Particularly concerning is their eagerness to reward a QAnon adherent, a 9/11 truther, a harasser of child survivors of school shootings, and to give them valued committee positions. Who could imagine they would put such a person on the Education Committee?
“It’s just so unfortunate. You would think that the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution, as they did when they did not seat Representative King of Iowa two years ago.
“For some reason they have chosen not to go down that path.”
She was referring to House Republicans’ decision to remove Congressman Steve King from the Judiciary and Agriculture committees in 2019 over his expression of racist views.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke to Ms Greene earlier this week, privately urging her to apologise for her extreme views.
On the floor of the House this morning, Ms Greene did publicly walk back some of those views, including her support for QAnon.
“When I started finding misinformation, lies, things that were not true in these QAnon posts, I stopped believing it,” she said.
“And I want to tell you, any source – and I say this to everyone – any source of information that is a mix of truth and a mix of lies is dangerous, no matter what it is saying, what party it is helping, anything or any country it’s about. It’s dangerous.”
Her statement also included a condemnation of the news media, which she equated to QAnon.
“What shall we do as Americans? Shall we stay divided like this? Will we allow the media, that is just as guilty as QAnon, of presenting truth and lies to divide us? Will we allow ourselves to be addicted to hate, and hating one another? I hope not.”
To remind you, the central theory of QAnon is that a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles secretly controls the world. For much of Donald Trump’s presidency, adherents believed he was on the cusp of arresting them en masse.
As she spoke, Ms Greene wore a face mask bearing the words “free speech”. Previous masks she has worn have carried messages such as “Trump won” and “stop abortion”.
Mr McCarthy issued a statement on Ms Greene last night, before her speech today.
“Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” he said.
“I condemn those comments unequivocally. I condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today. This House condemned QAnon last Congress and continues to do so today.
“I made this clear to Marjorie when we met. I also made clear that as a member of Congress, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard than how she presented herself as a private citizen. Her past comments now have much greater meaning.
“Marjorie recognised this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward.
“I understand that Marjorie’s comments have caused deep wounds to many and as a result, I offered Majority Leader (Steny) Hoyer a path to lower the temperature and address these concerns. Instead of coming together to do that, the Democrats are choosing to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party.”
The compromise Mr McCarthy reportedly offered Mr Hoyer was to remove Ms Greene from one of her two committee assignments. That wasn’t good enough for the Democrats.
“In the end, this resolution continues to distract Congress, especially given the limited time that Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat leadership want the House to debate and work, on what it needs to focus on: getting Americans back to work, getting kids back to school, and providing vaccines to all Americans who need it,” he concluded.
During a closed-door meeting of the Republican Party’s House conference yesterday, Ms Greene reportedly walked back some of her more outlandish remarks and suggested she would be more careful about what she posted on social media.
Ms Greene also told her colleagues her critics would be “coming after you next”, according to Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who has been a frequent critic of conspiratorial thinking within the party.
He confirmed that some Republicans gave Ms Greene a standing ovation when she was done speaking.
“It was a disappointing by a factor of a thousand,” Mr Kinzinger told CNN this morning.
“I know it sounds, you know, kind of inside baseball. I don’t like to reveal a ton of conference details. But you know, she stood up and gave a bit of contriteness, but pivoted into, ‘They’re coming after you next.’
“I obviously had a huge problem with all of that. But ‘they’ being the Democrats – if you’re not buying into Jewish space lasers, and false flag operations and QAnon stuff, to think that they’re just going to come after you next is way a bridge too far.
“I wish this vote today was something that we didn’t have to do, because it would have been done by our side, but to see her come out of there in a strong position was crazy.”
Mr Kinzinger did indicate he could still vote against the resolution, but only if Ms Greene issued a public apology for her views. He said that was unlikely.
“The only thing that could change is, if today, she comes out and publicly shows that she has moved on. Contriteness,” he said.
“That takes eating a lot of humble pie, and it’s probably going to hurt her fundraising base, so I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Because I think a lot of this kind of boisterousness on her part is to get a bunch of Twitter followers and to raise a bunch of money.
“If she does that publicly today, you know, then I reserve the right to vote against the resolution on the floor. Otherwise, I do intend to vote to remove her from her committees, and I think it should have been done by the Republicans.”